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April 23, 2014

Paul Johnson

COACH JOHNSON:  We concluded our spring practice Friday night in a monsoon.  Other than that I think the spring went well.  Got a lot accomplished.  Got a lot done.  Had a chance to get back to basics, work on fundamental stuff, get a lot of reps for a lot of guys.
We're looking forward to the upcoming season, hoping to have a great summer, get back in fall camp ready to go.

Q.  I wanted to take a look at spring for you as a whole, see what areas you felt that the team improved upon in some of the key places.
COACH JOHNSON:  Well, I think there wasn't really a position that we didn't want to look at.  We lost several key players.  I think the defensive line, we lost three starters.  That was a key position.
I think we came out of it feeling okay.  We moved Jabari Hunt‑Days from linebacker to end.  Shawn Greene is a guy who had been injured some.  He went all through spring without missing.  Adam returns in there.  KeShun Freeman is a young freshman that came in midyear that we think has a chance to help us.  Tyler Stargel at end had a pretty good year.
The defensive line was one area, but I think we have that answered.
Of course, quarterback, Justin Thomas and Timmy Byerly really competed during the spring for that position.  I think both of them got a lot better.
Most of the other spots, we had to replace some offensive linemen, but we've got a group who started several games in there.  They had a decent spring.
All in all, we were pleased with what we had.

Q.  Regarding the union vote, has there been much talk on the campus about your situation and where do you think this might lead?
COACH JOHNSON:  Believe it or not, there hasn't been any conversation on our campus.  Early on when it first came out, I talked to the team a little bit.  That was it.  It never came up.
I don't know where it would lead.  That thing could take a life of its own.  We happen to be in a state where our guys could not unionize if they wanted to.  It didn't affect us as much maybe as some others.

Q.  On the quarterback position, what is your assessment of Thomas and Byerly coming out of spring here?
COACH JOHNSON:  I think they made a lot of progress in the spring.  Clearly Justin Thomas is a guy with great speed and good quickness.  Byerly I thought really got better this spring.  He improved with his understanding of the offense.  The more reps he got, the better he got.  He's a tough guy.  A hard inside runner.
Both those guys can throw the ball as good or better than anybody we've had.

Q.  How are they from the running standpoint?
COACH JOHNSON:  Justin was the Alabama state 100‑meter champ from high school.  He's probably the fastest guy we had at that position.  If my memory serves me correct, Timmy Byerly was the high school player of the year his senior year when his team won the state championship.
They're both great athletes and they're going to be able to do what we ask them to do.

Q.  Talk about your defense.  What do you have to do this year on the defensive side of the football?
COACH JOHNSON:  Well, I think we made some strides a year ago to get better.  We just got to be more consistent.  We gave up a ton of big plays last year in the games that we didn't play as well.
We changed gears.  When we looked at it after the season was over, our nickel defense was more of our base defense.  We kind of switched around and made that our base defense.  In the spring, we played a lot of 4‑2‑5.  That's a little bit of a change.  Get another safety out there, one less linebacker.
All in all, I think our guys played hard this spring.  Like in any defense, we have to be able to generate a pass‑rush.  I'm optimistic about how our defense will play this year.

Q.  What is it like having Louisville?
COACH JOHNSON:  They're a great program.  They're on the opposite side of us so we don't play them for a few years.  Clearly they'll be a challenge.  They've got a great program.

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